On its first album, this sturdy power pop quartet from Norfolk, Virginia had the benefit of co-production by Mitch Easter and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills (who also contributes piano on one song). Keeping things plain and simple, Hermitage eschews any strong personality or overt influences to walk a unpretentiously straightforward line through the tuneful New South.
Exchanging the casual clothes of the first album’s portraits for more formal black leather jackets, the Poetics also hardened their musical stance on the nicely varied and spunky Manakin Moon. The songs are still tuneful, but lyrics about death and ghosts are matched by a semi-tough heartland rock sound with strong rhythms and gritty guitar. Displaying a propensity for offbeat covers, the Poetics take on Eno’s “Needles in the Camel’s Eye” and give it a credibly understated reading. (The CD adds a bonus track.)
A deep and unsettling investigation of the Poetics’ maturing musical obsessions, Bed Time Story ambitiously plunges into atmospheric tough-edged rock’n’roll and country. From such moody/edgy originals as “The Attic or the Underground” to an ominous version of Wreckless Eric’s “Semaphore Signals,” this provocative record is unlikely to help anyone sleep easier. The House of Freaks help out on “Jet Black Plastic Pistol”; the CD adds a live recording of “The Train Kept a-Rollin’.”